December 12, 2020 at 5:48 p.m.

Dairy Profile: Joe Engel

Joe Engel, Luck-E Holsteins
Hampshire, Illinois
Kane County
180 cows

How did you get into farming? My parents started Luck-E Holsteins in 1968. I started working on the farm at a very young age. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course in 2000, I bought in as a partner in our family farm. Over time, my percentage grew, and in 2015, my wife, Margaret, and I bought out my parents and continue to be partners with my brother, Matt.

What are your thoughts and concerns about the dairy industry for the next year? There is uncertainty in the year to come, such as how will trade and domestic programs affect markets? However, I remain optimistic for the year to come and take comfort in the fact that we have been able to take advantage of marketing tools to put a floor I am happy with on much of our 2021 milk.

What is the latest technology you implemented on your farm and the purpose for it? We added cameras in our maternity pens so we can continually monitor cows – whether from the field or from our bed. This allows us to ensure the maternity area is taken care of without disturbing other areas of the business or our sleep. The cameras are also great for employee training and compliance to make certain animals are being handled the way they should be.

What is a management practice you changed in the past year that has benefited you? We are investing more into our top genetics and using beef on bottom, creating more income from both ends.

What cost-saving steps have you implemented during the low milk price? While I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient, I think it’s very important to not cheat on inputs that will cost me money down the road, especially genetics. I learned that during low prices early in my career. Don’t cheat your future or your future will cheat you.

How do you retain a good working relationship with your employees? We have made a strong effort to provide a comfortable and secure work environment which we feel is more important than ever with all the stress and uncertainty that COVID-19 has created. As always, good communication and training goes a long way.

Tell us about a skill you possess that makes dairy farming easier for you. I’m ready and adaptive. It’s important to always have a plan, and possibly even more important, to be able to quickly adjust plans as necessary. As every dairy producer knows, a day, a season or even a whole year can change very fast. It’s important to be able to adapt to those changes quickly and strategically.

What do you enjoy most about dairy farming? I love genetics. I absolutely love the challenge of trying to breed every generation to be better than the one before. I love watching those animals grow and helping them reach their full potential.

What advice would you give other dairy farmers? Buy the best genetics available because it costs the same to raise an animal no matter how good they are. Focus on animals that can yield high returns.

What has been the best purchase you have ever made on your farm? Genomic testing. We can now make genetic progress faster than ever before. The results in our herd have been a game changer. The return on investment is huge.

What has been your biggest accomplishment while dairy farming? Developing cow families that are respected worldwide and individuals that have topped many type and udder composite lists.

What are your plans for your dairy in the next year and five years? While we plan to stay the same size, we plan to be more aggressive with our genetic program than ever before and continue to look for ways to be more efficient. I have said my whole career, if you are farming just like you did five years ago, you might not be farming for long. The industry changes fast.

How do you or your family like to spend time when you are not doing chores? We enjoy anything that we can do together. Even on the busiest days, a family meal is a great thing. We love to take a vacation every year where we can rent a house for a week and hang out without the daily stresses of work. And, of course, we love to show cows together, although that is work too.


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